Just like any situation which involves a gathering of people in one general area, cruising harmoniously necessitates some unspoken etiquette. If you are a veteran cruiser, you’re likely to already have some understanding of these guidelines, but for first-timers it’s a great advantage to read through them before embarkation day and step aboard feeling confident that you can be a considerate cruiser.
Most of the things that make for a great cruise experience are common sense and apply on land too. Overarching tenets of being a good person should be used: Friendliness, courtesy and consideration for others, along with some patience when waiting and respect for service staff. Here are a few more specific tips:
1 . Don’t try to reserve pool chairs.
Lots of cruisers leave towels on chairs to save them for later, but that doesn’t mean it is best practice for a polite passenger. You’ll likely find yourself raging at those who do this, and tempted to throw their presumptuously abandoned towels in the pool - so don’t be that person. Take your loungers as they come and go with the flow. Sitting a row back from the edge isn’t the end of the world.
This can be a particularly contentious issue, and the things left behind to “reserve” chairs (which is in fact often in direct opposition to cruise line rules) have been known to be a bit bizarre. There have been reports across the web of novels, shoes, cocktails, smutty magazines and even young children left behind to lay claim to a particular seat.
2 . Pay attention to the dress codes
When you’re on cruising, you’re on holiday - and for some people that means you want to dress in whichever comfortable garments take your fancy. However, ships have dress codes to provide guidelines on what’s appropriate for specific places and times to keep everyone on the same page, and it’s good etiquette to stick to the codes. Most are not too restrictive, and there are generally alternative options like the buffet if you’d rather not dress for dinner.
Dress codes change between ships (expect something a little more formal on a Cunard, Holland America or luxury cruises), but generally you can wear swimmers and whatever you like, such as shorts, tshirts and thongs, when around the pool and on deck during the day - with a touch of modesty, of course, and “resort casual” when away from the pool. Dinners in the dining room generally require tidy dress and no shorts, while a formal night means cocktail dresses or dress trousers and tops for women, and suits or at least collared shirts and jackets for men. Check your cruise line’s policy for the specifics.
3 . Wait patiently in lines
Cruise ship holidays do tend to come with the occasional queue - most notably, rush hour at the buffet. Patience is a virtue, this we know, and it applies twofold when you are on a ship in the ocean with your fellow queuers. Don’t complain, cut in line or crowd people and you should have a peaceful meal.
This works both ways, and if you are at the front, try to avoid dithering over food choices. You can always go back for more! Waiting to get a table in a restaurant or to enter a show can be an annoyance, but making a fuss will ruin the holiday vibe, so relax and make friends with the crew or fellow passengers to pass the time. The same goes for waiting in lines to embark or disembark. Keep in mind that the crew will be doing the best they can to get you where you want to go.
4 . Be health and safety conscious
On a cruise ship, you’re in it together with your fellow passengers, so you’ll need to be aware and considerate of them. Using hand sanitizers and washing your hands regularly is a good way to look after your health and everyone else’s, and if you feel that you are coming down with something do your best to keep it to your cabin.
When moving around the ship, keep an eye where you’re going and walk, don’t run. Your fellow passengers won’t appreciate being knocked over on their way to dinner! If you are cruising with kids, make sure that they also know to watch out for other people and respect personal space.
5 . Keep the kids under control
On the topic of youngins - just because you are on holiday, it doesn’t mean you can relinquish the role of parent, except when they are in the supervised children’s programs. Remember that everyone else is on holiday too, and doesn’t want to deal with noisy kids while they’re sunbathing with a cocktail.
Don’t let your kids run around, annoy strangers and get under anyone’s feet, no matter how adorable you think they are being while doing it. Additionally, remember that adults-only areas have those rules for a reason, so it’s better not to try to sneak underage cruisers into those environments designated specifically for those trying to escape the young ones.
6 . Be aware of noise levels
There’s nothing wrong with getting a little rowdy during your cruise - but it’s best for the sake of your fellow passengers to keep it to the bar areas! When moving through passageways, try to keep the decibels down especially as the evening wears on, as people are likely to be sleeping in the cabins which you pass - even during the daytime, there may be children having naps.
Partying on your balcony can be tempting, but out of courtesy for others it’s best to keep it down a little there too as sound will carry to the balconies above, below and beside yours. If you want to listen to music, keep it at a reasonable level and shut the doors and windows, or use headphones.
7 . Observe basic gym and spa etiquette
This one’s not really cruise-specific, but most ships have a gym and a spa which are both well-frequented, so rules of interaction at these establishments will likely come into play - and they are generally the same as those on land.
Wear appropriate workout clothes in the gym, wipe off equipment when finished with it, move away once you are finished with a certain piece of equipment and just like at the pool, don’t try to use towels to reserve machines! Stay quiet in the spa so as to not disturb the peace of tranquility-seeking passengers.
8 . Be nice to the staff and crew
This one benefits you, too! Being nice to the people who serve your food, clean your cabin, organise your activities and keep the ship on track is a no-brainer. Not only are they working hard to give you a great holiday, they can provide added extras if they so choose, and make your day brighter with towel animals, extra-special service and smiles.
Most cruise lines that operate from Australia have done away with tipping on their itineraries departing the country, as it is not a part of Aussie culture. This includes P&O Australia, Carnival and Princess cruises. However, double check before you get onboard elsewhere or with other lines what their tipping policy is. Skimping on tips is not a good look - and it can often be a misunderstanding or a cultural difference issue.
These tips should get any cruise first-timer through their first harmonious holiday on the ocean waves. Ready to put them into practice? Head over to Cruise Sale Finder and find a cruise to take you away.